As thought turn to summer holidays you might be looking for a break where your canine companion can join you and with a variety of waterways, lochs and lakes across the UK a boating holiday might just be the answer.
Boating holidays can range from a narrow boat on one of the many canals that cross the UK to a pleasure cruiser on a Scottish Loch or along the Norfolk Broads but whatever you choose there are some essential things you should pack, some safety tips to follow and boating etiquette to ensure everyone has a relaxing trip.
What to pack?
Regardless of whether you are going for a day trip or a week long holiday it is important that your dog is comfortable and sees their temporary accommodation as a home from home. You can make this easier by taking your dogs bed, a few favourite toys and make sure you don’t forget their food, any medication or bowls.
While your dog should be discouraged from sitting on any sofas or beds on the boat it can be a good idea to take a few throws or covers to place over soft furnishings just in case, especially if your dog is allowed on the furniture at home. Towels are another essential either to clean your dog after a walk or to dry them off if they decide to take a quick swim.
You will probably find that most rental boats will come equipped with a well-stocked first aid kit but it is always worth being fully prepared and taking your own with any extra dog products that you might need. Items such as tick removers can prove very useful and safe an impromptu trip to the vets during your holiday. For older dogs or those who might find the deck of a boat slippy or unstable paw wax such as Max Wax by Pawz or a set of dog boots can give extra traction and confidence. As with any trip poo bags are a must and a spare lead and collar with id tags is a good idea just in case of mishaps – you wouldn’t be the first person to accidently drop a lead into a canal!
On a hot day a cool river or lake can appear welcoming for a quick dip but you should always be aware of other river users, debris from fishermen as well as underwater hazards such as ropes or rubbish. Canals pose extra dangers as they tend to have steep sides meaning it can be very difficult to get a dog back out should they fall or jump in and the areas around locks need particular care due to the flow of water and movement of boats. Because of these risks perhaps one of the most important items to pack is a life jacket for your dog regardless of how good a swimmer your dog is and this is especially important for young, old or small dogs. Deep water can be surprisingly cold and any waterway may have strong currents meaning that a dog can get into trouble. A lifejacket such as the Ruffwear Float Coat can give you some added peace of mind should an accident happen.
To reduce the risk of upset stomachs when on your holiday you should try and discourage your dog from drinking from waterways which are being used by boats, especially canals, as there can be the risk of the water being contaminated so fresh water should always be available both on and off of your vessel. Leptospirosis, a disease which is transmitted by rats, is another risk to be aware of when beside water and it is advisable to check your dog’s vaccination status before your trip to see if they are protected against this.
As a temporary sailor you will discover that there is such a thing as good boating etiquette which if followed allows everyone to enjoy being on the water regardless whether they are on a boat or using the waterways in some other way.
This good etiquette includes:
- You should keep your dog away from any fishermen you come across and this includes stopping your dog swimming near them. Apart from causing irritation there is a really possibility that your dog could get caught up in fishing lines or accidently get a hook embedded in them.
- Be aware of any wildlife that is near your vessel or that you come across as you explore the riverbanks. A curious dog can cause distress to birds and animals especially if they have young with them and make sure you pay attention to any signs asking for dogs to be kept on lead.
- Watch out for cyclists, especially on tow paths. While most cyclists will look out for walkers and dogs it pays to be vigilant.
- Pick up after your dog and dispose of any rubbish carefully. You will find most waterways will have bins dotted along them to make cleaning up easier.
There is something very specially about cruising along a river or lying on the deck listening to the water lapping at the side of your boat and this is made even better when your best friend is enjoying it with you. Happy boating!